Pressure mounted on football’s ruling body FIFA Wednesday as police detained six football officials in Zurich on US bribery charges.
Prosecutors also seized FIFA documents in a separate probe over the 2018 and 2022 World Cup decisions. The separate but coordinated investigations came shortly before the expected re-election of FIFA president Joseph Blatter, who seeks a fifth term on Friday in spite of criticism of FIFA’s governance.
The Switzerland Federal Prosecution Authority said it had collected electronic files and documents at FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
It suspects that bribes were paid in connection with the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 event to Qatar. The prosecutors said documents, as well as banking files that prosecutors obtained, would be used for Swiss and foreign criminal procedures.
They said they plan to question 10 members of the FIFA Executive Committee who were involved in the World Cup decision in 2010, calling the officials “witnesses.”Meanwhile, the Swiss Justice Department said six football officials were arrested at dawn by Swiss police as FIFA delegates were gathered at the Baur au Lac Hotel ahead of their annual congress opening Thursday.
They said this was in a separate U.S.-based investigation. The department said FIFA delegates and functionaries of FIFA sub-organisations are charged with taking bribes from representatives of media and sports promotion firms totaling over 100 million dollars since the early 1990s. It said the bribe was in return for awarding media and marketing rights for U.S. and Latin American tournaments.
It said Jeffrey Webb, FIFA Vice President and Executive Committee member as well as President of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Football Federation CONCAFAF, were among the detainees. It said there were nine current and former football officials indicted on U.S. corruption charges, including Julio Rocha, current FIFA Development Officer, and Eugenio Figueredo another current FIFA Vice President.
U.S Attorney General, Loretta Lynch said the indictment alleged corruption that was rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and in U.S. He said investigation revealed that the alleged criminal acts were agreed and prepared in the U.S., and payments were carried out via U.S banks. Lynch said a search warrant was being executed at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami, Florida.
FIFA president Joseph Blatter was not one of the six arrested persons. Blatter, 79, was widely expected to be re-elected for a fifth term as FIFA president when the congress votes on Friday. He is being opposed in the election by Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan.